I just got sent a copy of a speech Rev Jon Inkpin gave to the Pax Christi NSW AGM. Some interesting thoughts here – perhaps a good ‘glass half-full’ counterpoint to my pessimistic article Kyrie Eleison from a few weeks ago.
For some time now I have been trying to work out how to do liturgy that really honours the courage and sacrifice of people who have fought in war, and at the same time speaks to the gospel call to peacemaking witness.
For me, the obvious starting point is that any remembrance has to be themed around the statement ‘never again!’ – nothing else really gets close to honoring the experiences of the utter depravity that soldiers so consistently report.
Anyway, this Anzac Day I had another go. I decided to structure the service around dual symbolic lists – one a litany for the victims of war, the other a calling forth of the spirit of great peacemaking saints. I welcome your thoughts!
As the Iraq War reaches its fifth anniversary today, it is time for the church to repent.
It is true that the church was opposed to the war from the outset. With an almost unanimous voice, church leaders and ordinary Christians said ‘no’ in loud and clear voices. We declared it to be an ‘unjust war’. And so we were on the ‘right side of history’.
But is it enough to say no to a war with our voices only?
If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the church took the easy path. We wrote letters, said prayers, marched in the streets. We did all the things we needed to do to salve our own consciences about the war, and absolutely nothing to stop it from happening.
News of a great action by Glenys and her small group up on the Central Coast… and inspired by PeBA:
“Many of our parishoners signed a petition to the US Government and Head of US Military Intelligence. It called for the cessation of teaching of torture techniques at a military intelligence base. It called also for the release of two priests, Louie Vitale OFM and Steve Kelly SJ. They were imprisoned for five months for trespass on military property when they tried to present a letter of protest about the teaching of ‘advanced intelligence techniques’ to both military and civilian personnel.
We let Father Louie and Father Steve know of our effort and wrote to them in the prison.
Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, always.” –Mohandas Gandhi
I’m off to Indonesia this Friday (forgive me my carbon debts) to the Historic Peace Church Gathering on behalf of AAANZ and Quakers (It will be a bunch of very respectable, intelegent and impressive people from around the world… and this dreadlocked kid from Perth!). So this will be my last ‘Wednesday with Gandhi’ for the year. It’s funny I set out to write about a bunch of stuff that I didn’t get round to but I trust the Spirit will take what I have done and use it to invite and inspire people to know in deeper ways for themselves this Jesus that Gandhi said was the greatest practitioner of nonviolence in history, central to his revolution in India, and the one through whom, I believe, God’s dream for creation has broken into history.
I thought I’d end by letting you in on a little of the life of our community. Us Peace Tree mob can say with our hero Dorothy Day “We have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” As a community we seek to ‘serve in silence’ and not make a big deal of what we do but since the gang fights and the subsequent killing in the street behind ours was so public and made the news overseas, we thought we’d let our light shine in the hope that it doesn’t glorify us but the God who is transforming our world not through force but through a love seen fully in Jesus.
Guest blogger in the backyard: Jarrod McKenna
Our friend Shane Claibourne, that mega-phone of amazing grace is at it again, this time campaigning for “Jesus for President”!
to read an Australian take click here
For a video explaining why you shouldn’t vote for Jesus this election click here
So as we go into this weekend, big respect to all those who will remember their identity in their baptism not in their nationalism. Big respect to all those that put precedence in God’s good earth and our ecological crisis over the economics of greed. Those who prioritise the poor, the orphan, the widow and the refugee the over promises of empty prosperity of Mammon and protection of a military. Those who remember that our primary place of political engagement is not in an election booth but in being the body of Christ together and living the politics of peacemaking and compassion that are the very texture of the new creation. This I pray for us all regardless if you vote or not.
That’s what us Peace Tree crew will be seeking to do. In response to the gang related murder on our streets we’ll be firing up the wood fired pizza oven in our Lockridge Community Garden and inviting diversity of mobs to break bread (with yummy topping on it) together. As Shane Claiborne kindly said of what we’re praying for,
“One of the doctors I met in Iraq said (with tears in his eyes), ‘This violence is for people who have lost thier imagination.’ Jarrod McKenna and the good people of EPYC are prophets of imagination. They are on a mission to create new heroes and sheroes and to reclaim God’s dream for this world. And as they help young folks to learn not to hurt each other, hopefully the nations will take some lessons.”
I think it will be here at the table, in the garden as we share what we have and seek reconciliation we’ll be inspired to find our imagination of a different kind of politics free of coercion. The politics of grace. All welcome! 🙂
Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:
“Today I rebel against orthodox Christianity, as I am convinced that it has distorted the message of Jesus. He was an Asiatic whose message was delivered through many media, and when it had the backing of a Roman emperor it became an imperialist faith as it remains to this day.”
–Mohandas Gandhi, (May 30, 1936) from “Mohandas Gandhi: Essential Writings” by John Dear, p. 79
I’d like to start this post not just with a quote from Gandhi, but a quote from 3 others:
“Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.”
“Anyone who can be proved to be a seditious person is an outlaw before God and the emperor; and whoever is the first to put him to death does right and well. For if a man is in open rebellion, everyone is both his judge and the executioner; just as when a fire starts, the first man who can put it out is the best man to do the job.”
“If what I’m saying about the centrality of Calvary-looking love is right, we need a major paradigm shift on how we view orthodoxy – which in turn should effect who we see as the “heroes” of orthodoxy.”
If the words of this last quote were written and acted on in the 16th century the writer could expect a second baptism of the involuntary variety where you never come up for air again. These aren’t the words of some dreadlocked, kingdom-fuelled, commune starting, dumpster diving, fringe-dwelling, freegan, (eco)activist, permaculturalist wanta-be (but thanks for reading my posts anyway ;)) but of Charismatic-Evangelical megachurch pastor, and theologian, Dr. Gregory Boyd.
So what his problem?
Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:
“If Jesus came to earth again, he would disown many things that are being done in the name of Christianity. It is not he who says ‘Lord, Lord’ that is a Christian, but “He that doeth the will of the Lord’ that is a true Christian. And cannot he, who has not heard the name of Jesus Christ, do the will of the Lord?“
-Gandhi (Harijan: May 11, 1935)
Last Friday night our church community watched an amazing (and disturbing) doco called “Jesus Camp” (we laughed, we cried… we ask “what the?” ). This is an important movie to discuss with our churches and friends who don’t share our faith. It documents “Pastor Becky’s” crusade (I used the word deliberately) to indoctrinate young people into a ‘spirituality’ of being ‘a generation of warriors for God’. It is nothing short of a ‘how to’ of Constantinian Christianity’s kids ministry on crack. It’s crazy. And it’s invading the imagination of many Christians. Like the movie “Saved” it holds a mirror to aspects of Christianity that looks nothing like Jesus and asks “What’s that?”. I found myself thinking I wish I was watching this with Stanley Hauerwas and could hear his reflections.
Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:
“When I admire the wonder of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in worship of the Creator. I try to see Him and His Mercies in all these creations. But even the sunsets and sunrises would be mere hindrances if they did not help me to think of Him. Anything, which is a hinderance to the flight of the soul, is a delusion and a snare; even like the body, which often does actually hinder you in the path of salvation.”
How does this quote strike you?
This morning I write this post from under the shade of eucalypts in the Lockridge community garden that us Peace Tree crew have helped birthed with other locals. One of the things that has shaped the Peace Tree is what the Spirit has stirred in us regarding the gospel being good news for all of creation (not just humans) and considering what this means in a society that is seemingly asleep behind the shopping trolley while we hurtle towards creation destruction (for those of us who have trouble connecting the dots… that means self destruction!). The Lockridge Community Garden is an exciting and humble venture in reconciliation, permaculture, food security, the reclaiming of public space, and as Harry (showing of his crazy latin skills and penchant for St. Benedict would say) “ora et labora” (prayer and work). Because it’s a Wednesday there a number of people who are volunteering in the garden, one of which is a friend who is a Buddhist nun. I ran the quote by her for her take:
“I really like it. He seems to be talking about detachment and perception and that what is external can either help or hinder depending on your state of mind.”
What I found so interesting is that I think many Christians, not just liberals, but evangelicals would actually agree with my Buddhist friend. They would use different language (maybe language simular to what Gandhi) uses here to say,
“It’s great but don’t let it (God’s good creation) get in the way of spirituality, or relationship to God, or ‘the gospel’ or ‘eternal salvation’.”
It’s always risky to paint with broad brushstrokes but the quote above reveals something Gandhi’s worldview where he viewed the goal of faith being a spiritual salvation (moksha) form the ‘illusion of this world’ while living lives of loving service. This ‘dualism with an activist twist’ is sadly what many Christians think the gospel is about as well. Somehow today Christians often think that right relationship with each other and with the land is a secondary thought to right relationship to God. For the early Christians it was an integral part of the reconciliation of all things which God has started in Jesus.
Somehow today Christians have walked away from our calling to be image bearers and witnesses to the transformation of creation (the coming of the kingdom). Instead we have become religious vendors of ‘spirituality’ to accompany the foolish and diabolical destruction of creation. Instead of preaching ‘in Jesus the exodus from all domination has started’ we preach a neo-Gnostism of ’in Jesus the exodus from creation has started’. As my friend Ian Barns recently wrote:
“many Christians believe that God is primarily interested in humans and their eternal salvation, and not in other creatures and ecosystems. Although the doctrine of creation (God made the world and saw that it was good) saves us from being Manichean (matter is bad, spirit is good) nonetheless, Christian worship, practice, and theology and involvement in worldly life is shaped by a practical dualism which makes us generally unconcerned about ecological issues. Moreover, the focus on issues of personal spirituality means that we fit comfortably within the utilitarian approach to the natural world that is part of modern urban and industrial life.”
“For this movement of American evangelicals, issues of abortion, same sex marriage, and stem cell research have been much more important issues than the long term health of the planet. To be sure, in February 2005, 83 prominent US evangelicals published the so-called ‘Evangelical Climate Initiative’, with a ‘Call to Action’ to governments and churches. Yet evangelical leaders such as James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Charles Colson and Don Carson actively opposed this initiative.”
And drawing on NT Wright issues this prophetic call:
“if we pay attention to the ‘bigger picture’ gospel that the Bible proclaims, we can see that far from being merely a temporary vehicle for us humans as we make our way to heaven, the creation is integral to God’s salvation purpose. God does not make a good creation, which he then destroys because of the disfiguring effects of human sin. Rather, his eternal purpose is that, as human creatures faithfully reflect God’s image, the created order should enter into the liberty of the children of God (Romans 8). The gospel message is that Jesus, the first born of a renewed humanity, has done what Adam, and humanity ‘ after the sinful flesh’, could not do: be the perfect image of God. Through his obedience unto death, Jesus opens the way for not just humanity, but God’s good creation, to enter into that glorious destiny God always intended.”
Living during this ecological crisis, if we are to have any integrity to the Scriptures, the early Church, and our Lord, we must preach a full gospel that is good news to all of creation. Otherwise “evangelical” will no longer be associated with ‘good news’.
Jarrod McKenna’s Wednesday’s with Gandhi:
“Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics understand neither.” -Mohandas K. Gandhi
“God will judge you for what you did today!!!”
If phone text messages could yell, I think this one I received might have been screaming. It was clear, not just from this sentence but the whole message (which I will not repeat) that this brother or sister (Identity withheld under the “I’m not being a fantastic witness” protection program) wanted to ‘open up a can of correction’ on me. What provoked this responce? The day of the last election we had in Australia I sent the following message to friends on my mobile phone:
“G’day, was think that while many don’t care about today, maybe if we live today for “the least of these”, the poor and the marginalised, today could be an act of worship. Grace and peace, Jarrod.”
While it sparked some amazing conversations with people who aren’t Christians, it really upset this one Christian. Another friend message back:
“So I guess you’re voting for [insert party]? :)”
“Who’s talking about voting for a party? I’m just talking about daily following Jesus. :)”
Political options in Australia: Howard, Rudd or… Jesus?
Both major parties in Australia are kissing more than babies in the hope of votes. In an interesting twist it looks like political parties are “finding religion”, in the faith that this move will find them votes. As the political master minds are plotting how to capture the Christian imagination to win their vote at the next election, I wonder what would happen if the church had it’s imagination captured by the politics of a suffering servant that saves not through tickling ears, the way of the sword, scapegoating others or by enforcing what is ‘right’ on others. Rather who saves through the suffering love of a crucified God. I wonder what would happen if we would let the Holy Spirit empowered the church to live the politics of the kingdom of heaven instead of in our own power seeking to be ‘a force for influence’ in running the violent kingdoms of this world?I’m not talking about retreating into a holy huddles and letting the world go to hell. While Ammon Hennacy words ring in my ears, “When choosing the lesser between two evils people often forget they still chose evil”, I must admit I’m a “lapsed-Christian-anarchist” and I do vote. But I don’t think voting is my primary form of ‘political engagement’.
My political engagement happens daily living as church in community, by housing those without a home, hanging out and making food for local kids without a meal, welcoming refugees to live in our home, visiting people in prison, growing food in the garden, getting to work on my skateboard and bus, teaching the practicalities of nonviolence. And other ways God lets our lives be a megaphone of amazing grace despite the fact we’re cracked vessels (or crackpots!)
We are to be ‘in the world but not of the world’. So what are we to be of? We are to be of the way of Jesus. The way of the kingdom of God. The politics of grace. The politics of generosity. The politics a new age where it’s not the rich but the poor who are blessed. The politics of the ministry of reconciliation. The politics of the weightier matters of law. The politics of the trust of the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. The politics of forgiveness. The politics of peacemaking. The politics of hungering and thirsting for the healing justice of God. The politics of sharing so ‘no one is in need’. The politics of being a colony of heaven. The politics of seeking first God’s Reign (or kingdom) in all things. For the early church, you could look at their life and see their politics, see who they were ‘voting for’ as their authority. Thier words and lives spoke a different politics to the violent ruler Cesar being Lord (maybe the closest thing we have today is Prime Minister) but the crucified and risen Jesus. Maybe the early Christians today wouldn’t say “Jesus is Lord”. Maybe they’d say, “The nonviolent Jesus of the Scriptures is Prime Minister. Come and join us in community where we can daily vote for him with our lives!”
- For the early Christians politics wasn’t a personal decision alone in a polling both. It was a communal practice with your sisters and brothers as you together lived as church. The community of God’s grace-filled alternative to the ways of greed, lust, oppression, violence, fear and exploitation.
And while many want to say Amen to the above the question comes ‘how’ do we do that. Politics classically isn’t about just who’s in ’government’ but how, (or the way) groups interact, organize and make decisions. (I think this is important to remember not just to keep democracy healthy but to keep church healthy! ) For the early Christians the only way you witnessed to Jesus being the Way is by living the Way (or ‘politics’) of Jesus. By seeking the Spirit’s empowerment to live a Christ-like life, AS A COMMUNITY. To live lives that speak of God’s great clean up of creation that God has started uniquely in Jesus.
This is where I think Gandhi can be the greatest assistance to Christians today. In showing us that being obedient to Jesus is not only faithful, it’s effective in bringing real and lasting transformation. For those that think our only options is retreating into holly huddles or alternatively those who seek to put in power a Christian version of the Ayatollah to kneecap everyone so that “every knee bows” (Calvin and others have tried it), Gandhi shows us, as Martin Luther King puts it, “Jesus gave us the means, Gandhi showed it was possible.”
Gandhi freed a nation from the biggest superpower of his day without a militia, without weapons, without running for parliament or holding a political position. How? By the sheer force of his character that had become obedient to Jesus teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. The politics of love are practical. Oddly enough I think Gandhi as a Hindu had a better understanding of the Christian paradigm for political engagement than most Christians seem to! The Christian paradigm is found at Calvary while trusting in resurrection power. For it’s impossible to take up our cross and take up the ways of coercion at the same time.
Oh… for those who are interested I agree with the person who sent me the text, God will “judge [me] for what [I’ve] done”. And after reaching out and trying to hear where they’re coming from and offering to meet with them, pray with them and study the bible with them I told them I agreed:
“I too think God will judge me. And in Matthews gospel, chapter 25 the criteria seems pretty clear, how we respond to those with little or no voice, “the least of these”.